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Accelerate your business growth through a data-driven marketing strategy

By / / In Insight /
Take a look at your business and your data and draw up a list of your marketing strategy pros and cons, says Sonal Patil. Data-driven marketing and how you use it – strategically and actually – is vital to your business’s growth. She says, if used effectively, a data-driven marketing strategy can create a big advantage in the marketplace. But if you ignore your data, or use it badly, you can significantly harm your relationship with your customers.
data-driven marketing data management article

Data-driven marketing has progressed significantly since its original conception. What was once an innovative business concept has developed into a mainstream marketing system – at least for those who understand how to use it! So, let’s define what data-driven marketing is in the modern world.

The data-driven marketing strategy

Data-driven marketing relates to the use and analysis of so-called ‘big data’ to build strategies and create predictions about the future behaviour of your clients or customers. By using the data you have, you may be able to better serve existing customers and attract new ones.

Let us agree on one fact: accurate customer data that comes directly from the customer is the best data you can get. No marketer can doubt that this form of data is the most useful tool they are able to apply. The information that enables us to know more about who our customers are and what they want is invaluable in modern business. It is essential to inform us how we communicate with them.

They may not even be your customers – they may be people looking for a solution to a problem. Mark Zuckerberg used an early form of data-driven marketing when he set up Facebook. He reportedly said: “That was a basic need . . . I looked around at the internet and there were services for a lot of things you wanted – you could find music, you could find news, but you couldn’t find and connect with the people you cared about.” Facebook solved that problem: Mark Zuckerberg targeted an audience with a need to contact each other. If that’s not data-driven marketing, what is?

How long should you collect data?

Data-driven marketing provides us with many benefits, including better personalisation, the ability to measure ROI and more. However, if you collect your data over too short a time, it may be misleading. You need to give it enough time for you to be confident your data provides the information required to make a marketing decision. There is no specified time period – you need to figure that in your own market.

Data & emotional reactions: case study

If you can tap into the emotions of potential customers, you may be able to use these emotions as a marketing tool. Need is one tool (food, drink, heat, shelter and so on), but so is emotion. The protection of a child is an example of this – the protective nature of parents for their children has been used as a marketing tool: Nivea promoted its range of sunscreen cream for children using data that provided information on one of the major fears that parents have during beach vacations: the fear of losing their children.

Children seeking fun: They may be afraid their fun-seeking children will run off towards the sea, or towards other children and the many attractions on the beach. One minute they are there beside you, the next they are gone! Nivea came up with a unique marketing program to make use of a visceral need for parents to keep their children safe.

Child proximity warnings: A Nivea advert for child sunscreen to keep kids safe from the sun also gave parents a means of warning them if their child ran away on his or her own. Nivea achieved this by providing an internet-connected tear-away strip that is used as a bracelet for the child. This bracelet has an electronic implant, and when parents register it with Nivea they are sent a warning on their mobile phone when the child exceeds a specified distance from that phone. Check out the video below to see how it worked. The campaign received several awards in Cannes, including a Grand Prix in Mobile.



Data-driven marketing in practice: This marketing campaign offers a benefit to the consumer in a very important way. Nivea triggered an emotional response in parents. The solution is a simple one for anybody with a smartphone. Data is important to all forms of marketing, but once acquired it should be used in a way that feeds into the emotions and needs of the target consumer.

Data in itself is not generally useful. However, when we marry up data with modern technology and apply that to a carefully constructed marketing strategy, we have a powerful tool that saves on resources and time while allowing us to connect with customers efficiently and effectively.

Accentuating the positives

Here are some of the positive aspects of using a data-driven marketing strategy in your business.

Benefit #1: You get to know your customers.

One of the major benefits that data-driven marketing offers is that you can create personalised marketing strategies and campaigns. To be successful in marketing it is essential that you are fully aware of the needs of the market you are involved with. Not only that, but you must also be fully aware of the needs of your potential clients or customers within that market.

Your customers may be getting tired of the same ‘Me Too’ attitude of large service suppliers. To take one example, Richard Branson tried to grow and sell budgerigars and Christmas trees . . . he failed! Too many ‘Me Toos’. In other words, too much competition for budgies and fir trees! He then researched data on what people wanted and weren’t getting. The data he collected persuaded him to open a record store. He found an empty store going cheap in Oxford Street, London. The rest is history – this was data-driven marketing at its best. Virgin Records expanded from a train carriage to music to a recording label to aircraft and back to trains! This was early data-driven marketing and it worked.

Benefit #2: Audience targeting is key

Marketing is no more a simple matter of advertising to the masses. Advertising blasts no longer work – online or offline. You get significantly more response by understanding your potential customers’ needs. Away back in history (like about 5-6 years ago) you may have seen the ‘Here’s what we have – take it or leave it!’ type of campaigns. Today, with data-driven marketing based on sound customer data, that would translate to ‘Here’s what you need – we can provide it!’ Not only provide it, but modify it to your customer’s need. You must first identify your audience and then target that audience with your marketing strategies. Richard Branson got that just right!

Benefit #3: Save time and effort 

Back in the day, customer data comprised name, address, contact details, type of business and name of rep/contact. Now, ‘Big Data Repositories‘ has extended this to the buying patterns of potential customers, their location, their needs and how they respond to adverts. The objective is to find out as much as possible about the potential or existing customer so you can better meet their future needs. This saves you time when they express an interest in your products – you know what they will need in advance.

Only a data-driven marketing approach can establish these factors and put them to use in product and service marketing.

Eliminating any negatives

Now, let’s look at the negatives of data marketing – if there are any! Actually, there are some. Data-driven marketing might be the current buzz word, but all is not perfect – as with all marketing systems, new and old. Here are the negatives:

  • Buzz words! People can latch onto them and join the ‘Me Too’ bandwagon! They pick up the term, but then apply their own conception of what the term means . . . and they make a hash of it.
  • If your data is compiled over too short a time period it can be misleading. You must know your market to establish what a reasonable time period is to gather meaningful data and you have to keep an eye on your market throughout your business.
  • Data-driven marketing can be used in place of inspiration and gut instinct. Mention gut instinct at a marketing meeting and you will be regarded as if you were a troglodyte! However, it is a very important factor, particularly with experienced sales and marketing staff.

Most successful old-time entrepreneurs used data to establish a market. They established a need for a service or product and then met that need. Today, they use big data to develop improvements to their products and services. In fact, it is highly likely that they accumulated big data and applied data-driven marketing before their practices were given posh names.

How is data obtained?

Data can be primary or secondary. Primary data relates to data obtained by means of surveys, through personal contact or survey forms generated with the use of commercial survey software. There is a good selection of such software online.

Secondary sources involve you checking out social media for mentions of the company involved. You can find a lot about a company using Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a particularly useful tool for obtaining data about a company – or those who  own and manage it. By the use of such techniques as surveys, customer feedback and simple verbal questions, you will be able to accumulate data on your customers, clients or even your own business that is sure to help you meet their needs better.

Statistical regression analysis

Once you have the data you need, you can then use other analytical techniques, such as statistical regression analysis, to establish the importance of these factors to your customers. By getting data from your existing clients and customers, and also understanding what your market is looking for, you can more easily meet the needs of existing and future customers.

Statistical regression analysis enables you to achieve this. It places a numerical estimate on each attribute identified by your customers. You can then use this data to assess the potential markets for various hypothetical products. However, more importantly, it can be used to design a product or service for each of the needs of your existing and potential customers.

In order to achieve this, you must fully understand the data you have – or that you generate. You must understand how to utilise that data to improve your marketing and sell more. This data enables you to compute the premium that may be charged for various features, and to design products and services that will maximise the company’s profit.

Data-driven marketing: bad application of the technique

Computers do not make mistakes! That is well known. However, when data-driven marketing goes wrong it is the system that is blamed and not its operator. You cannot measure the success of a data-driven marketing campaign on a day-to-day basis. Plan to measure the performance of marketing strategy over a minimum of 30 days or longer. Short-term fluctuations may be irrelevant.

If you identify specific failures to meet the plan, then talk to people. Ask them if there had been any reason for a specific blip in the figures. If your data-driven marketing strategy had been performing well to date, then look for an anomaly. Investigate, analyse and come to a conclusion. Failures in this form of marketing can be identified in just the same way as the market itself was identified: by careful investigation, analysis and appropriate action.

Using data-driven marketing well

Apart from the examples provided earlier, a very simple example of data-driven marketing relates to a shoe retailer in Scandinavia. In its attempts to use data-driven marketing to improve its turnover, it decided to collect as much data as possible about its customers. It created silos of specific data types so it could separate people according to how they used the firm’s website.

It used one silo for people who browsed for women’s shoes regularly, another for those who searched for children’s shoes and so on. After a while, it was able to identify those who visited the children’s section most regularly. It then checked whether or not the individual visitors were regular customers of the store or not. In this way, the company was able to create a profile for every potential or existing customer based upon their previous purchasing habits and their online search activity.

Based on that analysis, the firm could target promotional literature and emails to individuals according to their profile. Footballer Mark could be sent information about new football boots or training shoes, while mother Jane could receive information on new children’s and women’s footwear. Targeted advertising generally performs better than asking a linebacker if he needs new dancing pumps!

‘Data is the ultimate arbiter’

According to Professor Brian Cox: “…knowledge itself can generate actions in the human race which can be positive or negative, but I would still argue that the acquisition of that knowledge and understanding more about nature is undeniably a positive thing to do, otherwise we’d still be living in caves… Data is the ultimate arbiter; it’s a very simple argument actually.”

The same applies to knowledge in marketing. It is important to use data to drive your marketing, rather than working in the dark! A good marketing strategy should employ at least the principles of data-driven marketing.

Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Sonal Patil
Author: Sonal Patil
Research analyst at |

Sonal Patil is a research analyst at, where she focuses on the data required to develop marketing strategies.

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